THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Poetic Justice?

Posted in People by Harsha on August 13, 2010

Hah.

Indian guy now “owns” the East India Company!

Layoffs in India

Posted in Business, Questions by Harsha on January 25, 2009

With globalization, India is being affected as well. Oddly enough, the Finance Minister has stated recently that India will not be affected by the US and global recession, provided that domestic demand keeps up. I’ve not looked but quite a significant chunk of India’s GDP is in the IT & ITES sectors, so I wonder how that will hold true.

Times of India article on American Express laying off (sacking as known in India) workers.

Indian Free Speech Costs Career

Posted in New by Harsha on May 21, 2008

I recently read about Rahul Vaid’s arrest because he created an “I hate Sonia Gandhi” group on his Orkut profile and used profanity to express his opinions about the lady of Italian descent. Many people have blogged and commented about how Google was wrong in providing the cops his IP address, which doesn’t sound particularly unfair to me. Google was just adhering to a request from the enforcers of the law, thats all.

What is SHOCKING to me are the scare tactics that the Indian police and judiciary are using on folks who have every right to express their thoughts. Heck, if that were possible, then most of the Indian and international blogosphere will have to be eliminated because they express opinions of people and many a times, those opinions are not exactly positive!

This is definitely an attack against free speech. I know a thing or two about it. While the Indian police force has a hundred other things to do, they choose to spend their time going after one individual who had something negative to say about another person. Would they have gone after Rahul if he had written smut about you or I?

I think we both know the answer.

Here is a link to the story.

Here is a discussion board on the topic.

Here is a blog post on this issue.

A Nation of Hypocrites

Posted in Big Thought, People by Harsha on April 22, 2008

Brilliant article by Ramesh Ramanathan on Livemint.com

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Applying American Ideas to Indian Situations Experiment

Posted in Business, New, People by Harsha on April 9, 2008

This is really simple. It just does not work.

By the way, if you’re looking for any ideas with serious dotbomb potential, look at SearchMyCampus.com. How would I know? Well, I’ve had a dotbomb of my own back in the day, albeit wiping only a small portion of my family’s savings. Here are some snippets that might help:

Hello world! Our First Attempt at Blogging
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Brief recap: SearchMyCampus as you can see in the About Us section, is an online campus noticeboard for students across various campuses. The idea for this just happened to hit Peyush (founder and CEO) while he was wandering the streets of Montreal, Canada looking for a place to stay during his time at university (a couple of nights sleeping on a park bench with only some stray dogs for company does that to a guy).

We’re getting good feedback (coz, well, all said and done, it is a pretty brilliant idea) and some criticism too which we’re trying to incorporate in our future development

The Program Manager/CEO’s first post is just precious, as is the title for his post – “Share it and I bet you will find it!”.

Here is another quote:

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. (Wasn’t there a Backstreet Boys song that went something like that? Hmm) We’re pretty flexible about timings and hours too. What we’re looking for are people who are just as passionate about the site as we are, and committed to taking it to the next level.

The ultimate objective of SearchMyCampus.com is to enable students in colleges to mutually fulfill their needs, without the need for intermediaries.

(well, isn’t the site an intermediary in itself? And is this a business or a charity for local students, who live with their parents – yes, that’s how it is in India)

Despite your growing cynicism from reading this post, you should know that the intentions of the CEO are pure. However, just because one slept on a parkbench in cold Canada because one couldn’t quickly find a place to live (this is rhetoric because NO Canadian university worth its salt would allow an international student in harm’s way), it does not mean that the same problem exists in India.

One problem that is directly, immediately and financially worth addressing for students in India, is test preparation. Competition is rife in this space but therein lies the opportunity, right? If so many players are in the market, then it could mean that the opportunity is huge. It could also mean, and this is especially true of India where customer service concepts don’t exist (at least for Indians serving Indians) that customer needs are not being met satisfactorily, and hence you can set out to develop a better service. Think about it Peyush. “Build it and they will come” is a fool’s dream. Of course, I have been dead wrong in the past.

Quotes taken from these posts.

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Paperless World

Posted in Big Thought, Business, New by Harsha on March 23, 2008

“Paperless office” if I recall correctly, was the buzzword in the very early 90s. Later Adobe was heralded for Acrobat and paper was declared irrelevant. That was then, this is now. I just saw Mojo HD’s “Start-up Junkies” and their first season is focused on Earth Class Mail Inc.

I realized just how paperless I have gone since 2002/2003. For instance, I no longer receive paper statements for my credit cards or checking account. Checks that are deposited in the ATM now appear as images thanks to Check21. 100% of all faxes that come into my office are all “efax” – and as long as we’re not mandated to send back hard copies of signed contracts, we just fax the printed copy to our eFax number, which comes to us as an email. Invoices for services delivered are also now almost 100% paperless. And of course, greeting cards have been electronic since 1997.

Similarly, while in the MBA program, I wrote all my papers in MS Word and some were even uploaded to Blackboard that is prevalent in US educational institutions, but not exploited to its full potential by all professors (some disliked it even!). For some I had to submit print copies. Many tech-savvy professors reviewed the papers online and submitted grades in the system as well.

In a flat world, being paperless is the only way things can work and have been working since outsourcing began 12+ years ago. The other day I was emailing chatting with my friend Subbu who lives in Bangalore and works for Ernst & Young doing taxes for it’s American clients. How do you think he is exchanging information with the US office? I am pretty sure he gets all his work electronically, he works on his computer and then sends it back electronically. Paper is analog and obviously, email is digital. And it looks like you can take any existing system and re-imagine it digitally and almost automatically you can create a product and start a business.

Subbu also talked about microfinance. In traditionally poor countries, paper receipts are prevalent. So many of these entrepreneurs borrowing micro loans, are quite electronically adept. Many even have hand held computers. So going paperless can solve a small problem of avoiding missed micro loan receipts all the way to processing tax returns globally.

So when I saw and learned about Earth Class Mail, I was blown away in some respects and skeptical in others. Obviously I am not an immediate potential customer because I don’t own a PO Box, but the solution is brilliant. If I review all the mail I get electronically, trash all the direct marketing pieces of crap and have them recycle it (which is a service they offer for free) and electronically store anything else that is of value, then I think it is a brilliant piece of personal management. Owning a PO box now immediately looks like something my grandfather would have liked using, enjoying a leisurely walk down the street to meet his post office friends and have a chat

Of course, the coverage on Mojo HD (which is on cable) is something I absolutely love because it tells a story neatly edited yet with the fervor and excitement in a startup on small victories (I work in one). One of the episodes shows Ron Wiener who has just started blogging, talking to the Post Master General of India Post and was able to get him and PM Generals from many other nations to agree to run pilot programs. So even these bureaucratic government run organizations are looking to go paperless. That too all at once, globally.

So looks like paperless has finally arrived. I would be delighted if Ron Wiener would be interested in a discussion on this interesting topic.

UPDATE: On further research, I ran across this really nice blog about a Chiropractor in San Diego, CA trying to and then running a paperless office. Here are all the paperless posts, and here is an interesting post in particular.

Indians

Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit by Harsha on November 29, 2007

An oft-repeated question is “When will India become a superpower like the US or now like China?”

There are visions abound in India that forecast it’s supremacy in the next decade. The dream is that India will finally harness it’s economic horsepower and acquire a commanding stature in the world. Since 2000/2001, the economic and cultural climate in India has changed tremendously. Goods that were once luxuries are now commodities. Foreign nationals now are common sight in the city streets. Foreign Direct Investment is at an all time high. India is the leading outsourcing destination since a large chunk of it’s populace speaks fluent English (it is one of the official languages in India and a uniting factor in a country where every state speaks its own unique language). Over 400,000 engineering and business graduates come out of educational institutions yearly and Indians are adaptable. The top 10 Forbes richest include multiple Indians. The largest steel company is Indian-owned. Hotmail was an Indian’s creation. Bentley sold more cars in 15 days than what it planned for 1.5 years. You have diamonds encrusted million dollar cell phones. The list is endless.

All these are commonly known things in the world and often trumpeted by Indian politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists to show you that India is the next major force to contend with in the world. Next major force – that is an interesting phrase, kind of almost like setting up a constant expectant goal in the distance that is never reached. I am skeptical because I have suffered at the hands of Indian organizations that purport international awareness only to be backed up by ultra-poor Indian quality standards.

Try purchasing and using a calling card or a credit card or use an Indian website like www.sify.com or www.chennaionline.com. How lousy is your experience?

So, in order not to be skeptical or sound bitter, I spent sometime thinking about these problems and the two questions that go hand-in-hand. One – how is India going to become the next superpower and two – how did China become a superpower in ~10 years?

You think you know the answer for China: their non-democracy (what else can you call a capitalistic looking communist-dictatorial state?) is probably why they are leaders in today’s world as they are able to develop slave labor, charge nothing for resources and send their citizens to the US to improve their English and learn international/American customs. And India still seems to be stuck in a rut. True, there has been a lot of economic development but do you know that it is a tiny % of this largely agrarian based economy?

But the truth of the matter is, you need to look into history. Both countries were marauded by the British and America herself is a former colony. This is the common factor that binds these three diverse nations. Yet even though they are cousins in their legacy, America has been the world leader for 300+ years and now China is reaching up for the stars. India remains a distant last. Why?

Everyone jokes about how the world lives it’s life one way and America is pointed in the opposite direction (light switches, driving on the road .. you get the point). The fundamental reason is that America cast off it’s colonial shackles and the very basis of this country’s founding takes it away from colonial pressures and lifestyle. I believe that the only reason that China is where it is today, is because it is slowly doing the same – casting away the aspersions of it’s British legacy and going in the opposite direction.

India, dear India, on the other hand is firmly set in it’s British ways. It’s people, like me, are set in their approach and thought. We are still our British-servile selves because it gives us a “solid” foundation to base our preferences and lives on. It is deep rooted in our psyche. But it is not about preference for tea or old country clubs.

Until such time that Indians figure it out, we are going no where. I am not talking about the technological and economical development we see in India today – it is just a small piece of the pie. If you want to sum up the outsourcing industry in one word, then I believe it is “parasitic” – depending on others to feed you when your own infrastructure reeks.

No, I don’t hate the developments at home nor am I jealous of it. I am just frustrated at our ability to adapt so well and yet remain as a parasite, and be so reactionary to the whole situation. The variables for outsourcing presented themselves and we jumped on it. When are Indians going to create those variables for ideas and industries that the world has not yet seen? Nassim Taleb writes in his book and I paraphrase that despite all the ridicule, people around the world can’t seem to live without their iPods and their email and Internet – all American inventions. That is what I am referring to when I say that outsourcing and India itself is a parasite parasitic in today’s world.

China found it’s niche by employing it’s super-cheap natural resources, slave labor, lack of copyright protection, iron curtains and took it, no, embraced it.

So, what is India’s niche?

Nita Kulkarni, a freelance journalist in India writes about this topic.